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Recently I chatted with Henry Lopez, podcast host of The How of Business. Henry’s podcast is dedicated to giving small business owners tips and advice so you can grow your small business. I love talking about my journey with others on how I discovered project management and operations as a career. Especially how I’ve been inspired by all the other small business owners in my life, like my family members. Listen as Henry and I talk about ways to grow your small business through project management, including:

  • Project Management 101 (including tips on how to better manage projects as a small business owner)
  • 3 practical ways to control chaos in a small business
  • A day-in-the-life example of a business owner who has eliminated chaos in their business

Please find the full video transcript below:

Henry:  This is Henry Lopez and welcome to this episode of The How of Business. My guest today is Susan Fennema. Susan, welcome to the show.

Susan:  Thanks so much for having me, Henry. I’m excited to be here.

Henry:  Looking forward to this conversation. If you feel the chaos of your business, or perhaps also your life, in particular, maybe if you’re thinking about starting your business, all of that can be overwhelming, and it can keep you from getting started with the business or certainly from growing your business, not to mention, keeping you from living the life that you dreamed of when you started the business.

This episode is for you if that includes you, and I think it’s for most of us. The truth is that we can all get better at managing the chaos that comes with being a business owner. Susan Fennema is with me today, on this episode to share her tips and advice on how she says we can eradicate the chaos. To receive more information about The How of Business, including links to the show notes page for this episode, and to schedule, a free coaching consultation with me, just text the word BIZ B-I-Z to 772-837-5700.

Let me tell you a little bit more about Susan. Susan Fennema is, as she calls herself the Chaos Eradicating Officer of Beyond the Chaos. That’s her consultancy, where she specializes in helping small business owners simplify their operations, and manage their projects, so they can grow their businesses and get their lives back. She’s also the author of Three Ways to Control Chaos in Your Small Business. We’ll talk about that book and a special offer that she has for us on that book. Then she says, “I hope overwhelmed small business owners simplify their operations and manage their projects, so they can focus on growing their business and getting their lives back.” I know that’s repetitive there.

So, it’s so important. It seems so subtle, but so important. Susan lives in McKinney, Texas, which is a suburb of where I used to live in the Dallas, DFW Metroplex area. Once again, Susan Fennema, welcome to the show.

Susan:  Hi, Henry. Let’s dig in. I’m excited to go.

Henry:  Thanks. I appreciate it. Absolutely. Let’s start though before we dive into eradicating chaos, just a little bit on your background. Always curious as to how people got to being business owners. If I got it right, you studied journalism at A&M, right?

Susan:  Yes, I did. I’m a fighting Texas Aggie, class of ’88. I first thought I’d be a reporter. Then I thought I would be a copywriter at an ad agency. Turns out that’s really hard to do. As a 20-year-old, I had those stars in my eyes, but that didn’t come about. But I will tell you, I use that writing every day, and I am so grateful for what I was taught about being concise and clear and direct because that directly applies to how we work on a process.

Henry:  And persuasive, right?

Susan:  Yes, definitely. Well, journalism is supposed to be about the facts.

Henry:  Right, but the copywriting part of it, though.

Susan:  Right, but the copywriting is definitely the part that would be a little more persuasive.

Henry:  Mm-hmm (affirmative). That did, it’s interesting. The reason I like to highlight these things is often what we studied in college, or what we did career-wise, doesn’t necessarily dictate what we can or can’t do in a business. But it’s also interesting how you can take some of that and apply it to business.

Susan:  Completely agree, because, when you’re in college, you’re so young, you don’t even know what’s out there. I didn’t know that this was a thing, that there are people that manage processes and they manage projects. I didn’t know there was a Director of Operations at companies. How could I have planned to be that? But what you study can definitely apply to what you choose to do.

Henry:  Yeah. Did you have aspirations of being your own boss back then?

Susan:  It’s so funny, I was raised by a small business owner, and he’s one of my main mentors in being a small business owner, but he swayed me away from it because I saw the ups and the downs, and then losing it all and making it back and all of that kind of thing, and that made me nervous. I kept opting for security. I want the security of having a job.

Susan:  It took me a long time to come around to the fact that there isn’t security in having a job, there is security and being a business owner, because you are in control of your outcomes. That was a big mind shift for me. I was in my late 40s when I recognize that.

Henry:  Interesting. Yeah.

Susan:  I’m surrounded by small business owners. My sister and her husband own restaurants, they’re having a rough time right now. My best friend and her husband own an allergy clinic. When I said, I’m going to do this, unlike some small business owners when they first start, they get pushback from family and friends, with the, “Oh, are you sure you want to do that?” I got the response of, “Well, it’s about time.”

Henry:  Even from your parents? Or were they-

Susan: Especially from my parents.

Henry:  What changed there? What changed for them on the risk and wanting to steer you away from it?

Susan: Oh, they never steered me away from it. Sorry if I misspoke there, but they never steered me away from it. It was me watching it.

Henry:  I see, you observed that and had that response to it, which is not an uncommon thing. I hear this repeatedly.

Susan: Right. It can be scary when you watch it, and not knowing… I don’t think my father was ever scared in those situations that he couldn’t provide, or he couldn’t come back from where he was. That part I didn’t recognize because you’re not in their brain, you don’t see their skill set, you don’t see the lack of fear, you don’t see their ability to say, “Okay, well, then we do it again, and we do it faster this time, and we do it better this time.”

Henry:  A couple of questions. I don’t know if you have children? Do you have children?

Susan: I have a dog and a cat. So, no kids.

Henry:  Okay. All right. If you had children, for people you know who do, how would you do it differently such that your kids wouldn’t get that impression? Or is that even possible?

Susan:  Well, that is a great question. I was always led to believe that I could do whatever I wanted to do and that I could be strong and powerful. And I never had anything taught to me different from that. I would empower my children, or I’m thinking of my little niece that I might be able to instill some wisdom on. But I think I would talk more about how you always have a job when you’re self-employed. There is always a way to make money.

Quite honestly, I could strip down my team and just work one on one with my top three clients, if I just needed to support me. There’s always a way to pivot and adjust and be creative in how you can take care of yourself. I think that that’s important for young people to know.

Henry:  Yeah, I think that’s brilliant. That’s what we tried to do with our daughter, exactly along those lines, what we tried to do is highlight the positives of it, because what happens in my observation is we tend to bring home the headaches, is what they overhear us talking about or what might be the dinner topic, unfortunately, they don’t hear. What I did, is I tried to highlight. See, the reason I’m here with you today at this school event is that I have control to some degree over my schedule. Highlighting that was critical, I think.

Susan:  That’s a huge plus, too, is that flexibility that comes with small business ownership. We saw late nights of work, we saw some stress, but, we also saw him very able to take amazing care of us, like sending us to private schools and sailing us across the Gulf of Mexico in our own boats, being able to pay for us to go to college, these are not things that he probably would have been able to do or expose us to if he had not been in control of his own ability to increase his own income.

Henry:  Yeah, agreed. Thanks for sharing that. Okay, one last question on this and then we’ll dive into the topic of chaos eradication. At around age 40 or so if I’m getting it right, was there something that happens? For me, a couple of the events was getting laid off a second time. Often, that’s what triggers it for us in the corporate world. Was there something that happened, or was it a cumulative thing where you felt like, okay, I’m ready to go start my own thing?

Susan:  It was somewhat cumulative. My last job was a work-from-home position, I was a project manager for a software development company. In all of my jobs, I have always worked very closely with a small business owner. In this case, I was working very, very closely with him. Distance-wise, we were not in the same room, but we were on the same page and talking about how the business and direction of everything could change and what input I might be able to add to that from my experience.

I was more than just a project manager there too.

Henry:  Right. You were a sort of coach, it sounds like, to some extent.

Susan:  To some extent. When he wanted to change his business, to go away from software development to actually become a pricing consultant. We needed to scale down and I could see there’s not necessarily a place for me in that company. I went out and I started looking for a job, that was my first instinct because Susan’s got to be secure, so let’s go look for a job. I was looking at these jobs, and I was like, I literally would rather gouge my eyes out than go and do any of this.

So, how could I get a job similar to what I have? Who on Earth would trust a random person that they just met, to give them this kind of advice, to give them this kind of control in their business? It’s just not something that somebody hires somebody and says, okay, here are the keys to the kingdom, go ahead and do it. You have to earn that over time.

But when I realized, well, hold on a minute, why can’t I do this at home? Why can’t I start a business and help more than just one business owner at a time? My brain started working, and I’m like, I can do this. My first intention was, I’m going to go do this as a solopreneur, I’m not going to hire anybody, it’s going to be so simple, I can make the money I made in salary pretty easily that way. That’s how I started until I realized now I’ve tied myself. Now, I’ve really just given myself another job.

That’s when I wanted to start expanding beyond that, and I started hiring project managers and operations consultants that could come in, and help me do that work. The goal here that we have is really to improve American society as a whole, by touching each of these small business owners, we’re able to address their overwhelm, and then that affects the way they talk to their family, their friends, their team, their clients, and that affects all of those people’s interactions as well. That was the thought process about let’s help more than one at a time when I started.

Henry:  I’m assuming that’s how you arrived upon specifically, eradicating chaos, because what you observed is when you help people manage their projects better, that leads to a lot less chaos. Is that how you ended up focusing-

Susan:  Absolutely. There’s always going to be chaos. There is no way to control the water main breaking, and the AC going out on the same day, along with your biggest client being mad at you, for some reason. All of that is… That’s just going to happen. But if we can control it enough regularly, then it frees you up to handle those situations when they come in.

Henry:  Right, to put out the real fires. I think that’s such an important point, Susan because I do think some people come into business ownership thinking that you can have a scenario where there is no like you said, no chaos whatsoever. Maybe you get to a point where there isn’t chaos, but there are always challenges, fires, emergencies that come up in any business. You’re not proposing that we’re going to eliminate it, or we’re going to take tremendous control over it, so that, as you said, we’re not continuously running from fire to fire, we have the energy to do the projects that we need to complete the right way, and then the energy and availability to deal with those true fires that come up in business. Is that fair?

Susan:  That’s absolutely fair. You can have your business just humming along, and all of a sudden, that all-star on your team decides that, well, I’m pregnant, and I’m going to leave and I’m not coming back. Now, your whole world is in chaos, right? Because now you got to figure out how to replace or do the work of that person. But if everything is systemized and running well, then making that happen is not the hair-on-fire type of chaos. It’s just upsetting chaos perhaps.

Henry:  Exactly. Yeah. Why do most small business owners operate in perpetual chaos? Why is that, in your observation?

Susan:  I’m going to give you two, almost diabolical… Not diabolical, di-opposed… No, that’s not the right word. You know what I mean.

Henry:  Counterintuitive.

Susan: There you go, answers.

Henry:  Something like that.

Susan:  The first one is there is a control factor. Small business owners feel like they should control every single thing that’s going on in their business, they have to do it or it’s not being done right, and they cannot relinquish that control, because they’re afraid that somebody else won’t do it as well as they can. That’s one main one, and the other one that’s somewhat opposite is that they don’t feel value in themselves unless they’re frantic. They almost feel guilty if they are not dealing with that next fire.

Henry:  Yeah, I think this is a really good observation. I’ve seen this, I’ll come back to this point because it’s not just in the owner, but maybe in a manager or someone in some position of authority I’ve seen this, it’s this thing where it’s almost like the thought of, I have a business that can run without me, then it’s like, well, then what value am I, right?

Susan:  Right.

Henry:  I think it’s an ego thing that comes into play, especially if we’ve been doing it or we come from, you probably could have been challenged with that, but you had the skills to avoid it, perhaps, because you started in that classical fashion of technician, meaning you took a skill that you had, you started a business with it, but then, of course, you grew it beyond that.

I think a lot of times, people who come to it by taking that profession and now trading dollars for hours have a harder time with letting go over this control, is what I’ve found.

Susan:  I completely agree, and to some degree, don’t have the past managerial experience to know, because they come in and they say, “Man, I am the best software developer I know and that anyone knows. So, I’m going to make a software development business.”

Okay, now guess what? You’re not going to get to develop software very often because you’re working on your website and billing your clients and making sure that your stuff’s done on time. You’re project managing, you’re doing all of these other things, except the thing that you loved and were great at.

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Going back to the point I had made as well, I’m curious as to your thoughts on it, that sometimes what I look for when somebody tells me that they have a manager who, despite best efforts to implement systems is always claiming that they’re having to put out a fire, there’s always an exception, there’s always a problem. I think it touches on this thing that you explained where they feel like the only way they have job security is if they’re so dependent, we can’t get it done without her because there’s always chaos, and she seems to know how to put out the fires.

We’ve got to be cautious of that as business owners if we have those people in our environment, and you’ve given them the resources and the systems and the tools. I think we got to look for that as a red flag. What are your thoughts there?

Susan:  I completely agree with that. Whether you’re the owner or the manager, think about what would happen if everything was just running smoothly? How are you going to feel about that? Because that’s the issue that some business owners have that prevent them from being able to change, is that fear of then what, as you mentioned before.

I had one client who said, “Look, you have things on your task list from three years ago, you’re never going to do those, just delete them. Just don’t do them, get them out of your purview, and you won’t have that overwhelming of, oh, there’s so much.” He said, “I can’t do it. I can’t let it go.” I said, “Why?” I said, “It’s obvious that you can’t… ” He’s like, “Well, then what would happen if I didn’t have enough?”

Henry:  Interesting. Thank goodness he was honest, because what he’s sharing is what a lot of people can’t quite articulate, or not willing to, right?

Susan:  Right, or it’s so buried they don’t even know.

Henry:  They don’t even know. Yeah.

Susan:  Right.

Henry:  They’re not introspective enough to know that this is even something they’re feeling or thinking.

Susan:  There’s a little psychology that comes with it.

Henry:  There is, yeah. There totally is. Right. In part, I think that what you’re helping people with is if, as we touched on already, if you take a different approach to manage these projects, and again, I certainly believe, and I know you agree that as the owner or the leader, I shouldn’t be bogged down with the day-to-day, once I grow my business, I need to delegate those things. I’m now responsible for those projects that move the business forward. Where identifying opening a different location, or adding a product line or whatever it might be, those projects.

Your argument in part is to control and begin to eradicate the chaos, I need to better manage those projects. Is that right?

Susan:  Well, I would start with the systems surrounding how you manage your projects.

Henry: Okay. Tell me about that.

Susan:  When you have things going on in your business that are repetitive, and that is what you want, you want a business that can be repeated. To simplify that, you need to be able to absolutely define what the steps are to get there. Whether it’s from the lead that comes in through the door, down to how do we close out their project and ask for a testimonial? What are all the steps in between to take them through that path?

Henry: The systems of the customer journey, right? You got to have that in place first, is what you’re saying?

Susan:  First, or some business owners have it but it’s all in their head.

Henry:  Sure.

Susan:  When it’s all in their head, and they’re actually doing it, they don’t realize they’re systematically doing it, and until you can get that out and clear, you can’t give it to someone else.

Henry:  Okay, so let’s talk about that, let’s say that’s the project at hand is to begin to systemize the customer journey in my business, what are your tips for how do I conduct that project? Because one of the things I find, Susan, I’m sure you do is, we’ve talked about overwhelm, people, look at them say, oh my gosh, I don’t even know where to start, right.

Susan:  We usually start where the biggest bottleneck is. What is preventing other members of the team from working because the owner has to act. What are those things? Can we figure out how to systemize that part to push it off? Because you’re right, it is overwhelming to take it all on at one time. Oftentimes, it might be that part between the owner has written a proposal to a client, to get the project started with a team. What all goes into that? Sending it out, getting it signed, getting an invoice sent, getting something paid, opening a project from a template of how we always do our projects. Then, starting that project with a team so that the work is started.

That section right there is something that you’ll see a lot of business owners struggle with because they also don’t like to finish things. Business owners are so creative, they want to go to the next thing. They’re not that interested in those, yeah, check off the box and go down through the implementation and finish it. They want to start something new.

Putting that into place in that bottleneck, where oh, yeah, I got somebody who has my proposal, and we didn’t follow up for three days, and we didn’t ask if they’re interested. Then they signed it, and we waited a week to send an invoice.

Meanwhile, your customer client is also sitting there going, “What is going on? Do they not want to work with me? Why is there no sense of urgency?” You’re also even starting your project off on a bad foot.

Henry:  Right. Plus, and of course, that’s ripple effect chaos throughout the organization.

Susan:  Right.

Henry:  Okay, I started and that’s the way I’ve approached it as well so that it makes sense to me that I identify where the constraints are right now, and I focus there, instead of trying to, as I say, boil the ocean, right? But when I’m in that project, are there some tips that you help people with, exactly to the point you’re talking about to make sure I actually complete this project?

Susan:  Sure. One is we want to make sure that we do have a way to manage projects. You should be managing your business and your sales as a project, for sure. Do you have a tool, or are you trying to do it via email? If you’re trying to do it via email, I will just flat out say, that is wrong, do not do that.

Henry:  What tools are we talking about? Are we talking about project management tools like Wrike and others that are out there?

Susan:  Sure. Like, Wrike, we like Asana, Basecamp, is actually our favorite. But as long as you are picking one, and building a process around how you use that tool, that is more important than which one it is.

Henry:  What are some of the key things that make up that process? What other things do you look for? The tool is about, I’m assuming, supporting the collaboration, the documentation, the tasks, and who’s responsible for what so that we can track this so that we’re not stepping on each other, all of those kinds of things, what else comes into the structure that makes for successful project management?

Susan:  One of the things I look for is making sure that you can start to templatized your projects. If you create websites, even if they’re custom websites, and you might have 20 steps in the middle that are specific to that client, you still open a project the same way. You create a folder in your Google Drive, and you put things in it, and you collect their logo, and you define their colors. All of those things are the same.

You can create those as a template, then leave some space to do the customized stuff and add that in per proposal or client discovery. Then at the end, you have some similar steps too, to close things out, make sure the client has a backup, make sure the client has all the passwords, ask the client for a testimonial, or if they know anyone to refer you to.

Also, if you’re doing a website, hey client, can I use some screenshots from your site for my portfolio? Those types of things become your standard framework for your project. Then you can insert the specific custom things in the middle. Some projects are just always the same. If you just always do it the same way, you might not even have any custom steps to add.

Once you create that template, and you’re able then to open a new project from that template, you’re often running with a plan. Some of these tools even will auto-schedule that for you.

Henry:  Okay. All right, it’s starting to make more sense to me, certainly. One thing I want to come back to or talk about, you talk about as I was doing the research, what you say is, structure sets us free to control our time. The reason that stood out to me is I believe that but I find that again, is one of those counterintuitive things, where I hear entrepreneurs saying, “Well, that was the reason I became an entrepreneur, is I don’t want structure.” Tell me about that and your experience, and why that is so important to have a structure?

Susan:  Really, this is about are you going to control your calendar, or are you going to let it control you? The structure lets you control it yourself. I do this surrounding calendaring. That’s one of my biggest tips. If you are not blocking time on your calendar, you’re missing a big advantage to being able to manage your time. I have some rules as to how to start that calendar and how to maintain that calendar, as far as priorities go.

The first thing you want to put in there is whatever your spiritual or Godhead guidance is, whatever that is to you, whether it’s prayer or meditation, or walking in a peaceful valley, whatever that is, that is number one because if your spirit isn’t there, you’re no good to anyone else. The second part of that is your health. When are you exercising?

Make sure that’s on there, make sure that you have a lot of time to eat lunch, that is a big thing that business owner will not block out, even if it’s, I need to go to the kitchen for 15 minutes and reheat that frozen microwave dinner, make sure that that’s on there, so you don’t skip it and you do make it a priority. Same thing with dinner at night.

For me, making dinner at night is on my calendar every day, because it’s my transition time from work to home life. Making sure that, that health stuff is on there. The third is your family. If you don’t have your God and your health, you’re no good to your family. That’s why that priority is there.

That goes next. Guess what, work certainly will fill in the blanks, won’t it? Start to control that as well. You might have a block of when you’re going to work on which client when you’re going to focus on working on your business and put those on your calendar and you’ll start to see some structure that also sets you some deadlines.

If I only have three hours to focus on the next ad I’m going to create for my business to get more business, that’s all the time I’m going to spend. So, I’ve got to put my head down, I’ve got to focus, I’ve got to block out everything else. That deadline creates a sense of urgency. I worked in the advertising industry for about 10 years, and man, it didn’t matter what the deadline was, you could give somebody a month from now deadline, and at the end, they would be frantic, up against it, because that’s when they worked the best.

Henry:  Yeah. I get all of that, and it all makes sense, but the problem is that I think, well, but I have all these things I got to do. The business needs me to do this, I got to do that, I got to be at the location tomorrow. In other words, I don’t have that luxury. That’s often, I get it, it’s a reality, especially when we’re first launching our business. What do you help people with as far as to get started? Because what you’ve described there is the ultimate, I think, but I don’t know that I can get there tomorrow.

Susan:  If you’re just getting started, the things you need to look at are what is on your plate? Especially if you’re a solopreneur, don’t think that that doesn’t mean you can’t get help. There are plenty of ways to get help. First, make sure you have a list. So, you’re project managing yourself. Hopefully using the tool that you’ve chosen, of what are all the things I’m going to do and when are they due and when do I have to get them done by, or when am I going to work on them, and then when do I have to get them done by? If you cannot fit it into your schedule, well, something’s got to get.

Henry:  Yeah. This approach is also, Susan, you talk about, it’s what I think begins to help us think about from a tool perspective that alleviates that fear we might have of going from ours, as I think you say, the 9:00 to 5:00, to the 24 by seven, right?

Susan:  Right.

Henry:  If we go into this with this mentality and using these techniques that you’re sharing with us, then I think that allows us, even from day one, to have some control, to minimize the chaos, it’ll get out of hand, otherwise.

Susan:  Definitely. When you’re first starting your business, you get that first client, and you know… Even if you’re doing a fixed price on your proposal, you still should have a good idea about how many hours that’s going to take you. Start from the beginning of blocking that out. Let’s see, I told ABC Company that I would have their new software done for them at the end of March, and I’ve got six weeks, and I think it’s going to be about 20 hours before I can give it to them, and then they have to review it.

Okay, now you’re backing your time out to schedule that. We’ll block the time you have to work on your calendar. That already tells you what else can I do? Can I take another project, or am I booked?

Henry:  Right. That’s a whole thing we got to learn to say no, early on as hard as that is. The other thing is, listen, we think that, or we have bought into this myth that we’re only… It goes back maybe to that control thing that you articulated early on, that if we’re not working chaotically in our business, then we must be lazy or not working hard enough.

In fact, what happens is what it’s going to lead to, if nothing else, is burnout. By doing these things as early in your business as possible, you’ll ensure that you first, can enjoy the process of building your business and actually be doing it 10 years from now, if it’s what you want to do, and that it gives you the lifestyle, which is hopefully the reason you got started to begin with.

Susan:  Absolutely. When you’re looking at that list of things that you have to do, and you’re getting to the point of, I got to invoice people and I got to collect money, and I hate that part. Okay, that’s great, stop doing that. Hire a part-time bookkeeper, and get them involved in doing that. Yes, it’s going to give you a little more overhead, but if you start calculating that out as well, a bookkeeper’s $20 an hour, but I make $100 an hour when I’m doing what I’m doing? Well, that’s a no-brainer, you shouldn’t be doing that. Your bookkeeper should be doing that, so you can go do $100 an hour tasks.

Henry:  Yeah, absolutely. Okay. The book is Three Ways to Control Chaos in Your Small Business. Can you introduce at least at a high level, those three ways?

Susan:  Sure. Three ways that we walk through are about systemizing, and then project management, how to manage your projects well, and with a tool. Then the third part is how to control interruptions.

Henry:  We’ve touched on the first two, somewhat, so tell me about controlling interruptions, because that’s a big one.

Susan:  We’ve actually touched on that too, but we just didn’t say how we were doing that. Part of that calendaring is preventing interruptions.

Henry:  Okay.

Susan:  The other is turning stuff off. The phone and your texts and your emails, especially email, are really not emergencies. Rarely are they emergencies. Turn it off, set a time every day to go and look at your email, not first thing in the morning, please, because it does get you off track later in the day. If you can hire a virtual assistant to help you, that person can even alert you if there is something urgent. You can find virtual assistants.

I’ve had amazing luck finding great virtual assistants in the Philippines for $7 an hour or less. You can afford to get that help.

Henry:  Yeah. I agree. I think those are such great points. As you were explaining the time blocking, which is what I try to do, there is no way, if I’ve locked out an hour for this particular project, you’re not going to be able to get it done then, or put enough effort into it if you’re distracted.

Susan: Right.

Henry:  One of the simplest things I did three years ago was turn off my Outlook notification, where it dings you on the taskbar, you have a new message because I found that I couldn’t wait to go see what the new message was, right?

Susan:  It’s like it fires off dopamine in your brain, right?

Henry:  It does, and there have been studies done on that, and that is actually what happens. I turned that off, and almost every day, I think about, gosh, what a simple little productivity hack that was. Like you said, putting the phone aside. If you’re going to do this right, you have to be able to have concentrated time without interruption, that’s key in my experience.

Susan:  I agree with that. Those appointments that you make for yourself, that’s essentially what you’re doing when you’re blocking your calendar, need to be kept just as they would if you were meeting with another person, and the attention needs to be just as though you are talking with another person. Here’s the beauty, you want to talk about how you’re able to be flexible, guess what, if you get to a block on your calendar, and you’re like, I just don’t want to do that right now. Well, now you’ve got blocks on your calendar, move it around, play a little calendar Tetris, figure out where to work it in on another day, and do what you want to do now, so you do create some flexibility there as well.

Henry:  Absolutely. All right, you’ve got a special offer on the book. So, tell us about that.

Susan:  We are very passionate about helping small business owners. So we did put together this book. We’ve worked with about 50 clients in about five years. We’ve come up with Three Ways to Control Chaos in Your Small Business. It is a short eBook, I believe it’s about a three to five-minute read. You can download it for free at

Henry:  Tell us that URL again.


Henry:  Wonderful, and I’ll have that link as well in the show notes page, at, in case you didn’t get that. Great. That’s a great offer. It goes into details on these things that we’ve been talking about. Anything else, Susan? We didn’t get a lot of chance to talk about the other services that you offer. So, tell me briefly about that.

Susan:  Sure. We really help people figure out what processes they need to write, what tools they should or should not be using. Then we also help the project manage the work if that is part of the operations that they need help on. All of those things, unlike most consultants, we don’t just say, hey, a small business owner who has too much to do, here’s another list of things that you also need to do that you’ll never get to.

We will not only recommend that software, but we will also help you set it up. We will help you create those templates.

Henry:  Because it’s such a key thing.

Susan:  … we will help you train your team.

Henry:  I’ve seen so many small businesses try those types of tools and fail because they don’t know how to implement those tools. That’s not typically what we’re experienced at.

Susan:  That’s one of the things I say all the time, if you get a hammer and a nail and put them down on the table, that’s not how the picture gets hung.

Henry:  Right, exactly. That will show me how to do it. All right, we talked about your book, the eBook Three Ways to Control Chaos in Your Small Business. Is there another book that comes to mind related to this topic that you would recommend?

Susan:  Yes. One of my very favorite books is this very, very short read, is The One Minute Manager. If you’re going to hire anyone, even if that is a part-time assistant from the Philippines, read that book because it talks about how to address things quickly, timely, and without drama, so you’re able to manage your team with a lot more direction and with less angst of waiting for that one year review.

Henry:  Yeah, I think it’s one of the all-time classics.

Susan:  Yeah, it’s great.

Henry:  Thanks for that recommendation. All right, we’ll wrap it up. Susan, what’s one thing you want us to take away from this conversation we’ve had about how to grow your small business, or perhaps as I’m getting ready to start my first business?

Susan:  I think the important thing to take away from this, is that you don’t have to do it all. I think that many of us feel like we will just do everything and it will be fine. But you don’t have to do it all. There are people out there that can help you, especially on those things that you hate to do.

Henry:  In your experience, a lot of the chaos comes from a business owner not willing to let go.

Susan:  Absolutely.

Henry:  Great stuff. Where do you want us to go online again, to get the eBook?

Susan:  I would go to That’s dot-biz, not dot com. So,, and our contact information is available there if you just want to email us as well.

Henry:  Wonderful. All right, great conversation, Susan. Thank you for sharing the free book and for taking the time to be with me today.

Susan:  Well, thanks so much for having me. This was fun.

Henry:  This is Henry Lopez and thanks for joining me on this episode of The How of Business. My guest today, again, was Susan Fennema. We release new episodes every Monday morning. You can find us on Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, Spotify, and at our website Thanks for listening.

Thank you for listening to The How of Business. For more information about our coaching programs, online courses, show notes pages, links, and other resources, please visit


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